Witness Archives - StoryCorps

A Daughter Reflects on What Philadelphia’s Chinatown Meant to Her Mother.

 

In the 1960’s Deborah Wei’s parent’s left China for the United States and eventually settled in the suburbs of Philadelphia. . At StoryCorps, Deborah talks with her daughter Kaia Chau about how her mother navigated making  a home, and what Philadelphia’s Chinatown meant to the family.

 

Deborah Wei’s mother with strawberries she grew in Philadelphia in 1981. Courtesy of Deborah Wei.
Top Photo: Deborah Wei with her mother and sister in Philadelphia in 1959. Courtesy of Deborah Wei.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired April 19, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Our Car Had Landed In The Water:” A Mother And Son Remember a Frightening Accident

StoryCorps conversations aren’t scripted, and even the participants can be surprised by what comes up when they get behind the mic. 

That’s what happened when Karina Borgia-Lacroix brought her 10-year-old son, Levi, to the StoryCorps Mobile Booth in Fort Myers, Florida, and he asked about her favorite memory.

Karina Borgia-Lacroix and Levi Lacroix at JetBlue Park at Fenway South  during spring training in Fort Myers, FL, in March of 2016. Courtesy of Karina Borgia-Lacroix. 
Top Photo:  Karina Borgia-Lacroix and Levi Lacroix at their StoryCorps interview in Fort Myers, FL on March 2, 2024. By Sara Barkouli for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired April 12, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Death Row Spiritual Advisors Find “Profound, Lived Love in Unlikely Places”

Reverend Lauren Bennett leads the Metropolitan Community Church in St. Louis, which primarily serves the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Ministering to people in their final hours is an expected part of her role as pastor, but in 2023 she became only the second person in Missouri to do so in an execution room. 

Lauren Bennett and Gerry Kleba at the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Saint Louis in St. Louis, MO on January 28, 2024. Photo by Shelle Veres.

When Father Gerry Kleba received the same assignment, he turned to Bennett for advice. 

Despite their differences, the two spiritual advisors formed a close bond. 

They came to StoryCorps’ Mobile Booth in St. Louis to talk about their shared experience of finding love in unlikely places.

Top Photo: Gerry Kleba and Lauren Bennett at their StoryCorps interview in St. Louis, MO on October 2, 2023. By Franchesca Peña for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired on March 29, 2024 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

They Know Suicide Too Well. But One Moment Brought Them Solace

Friends Qaiyaan Harcharek and Don Rearden grew up in small Alaskan towns hundreds of miles apart. But they both have experienced a great deal of tragedy: Alaska has some of the highest suicide rates in the nation, especially in its indigenous and rural communities.

They met as adults when Don visited Qaiyaan’s hometown Utqiagvik, the northernmost town in the U.S. They bonded over their love of Alaskan culture and wilderness — And their grief. At StoryCorps, they remembered a moment in their friendship that brought them even closer.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired March 15, 2024 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo: Don Rearden and Qaiyaan Harcharek pose with fossilized mammoth ivory in Utqiagvik, AK on July 10, 2018. By Joe Yelverton.
Middle Photo: Qaiyaan Harcharek in Utqiagvik, AK on July 10, 2018. By Joe Yelverton.
Bottom Photo: Don Rearden and Qaiyaan Harcharek in Utqiagvik, AK on July 10, 2018. By Joe Yelverton.

How A Tiny Gift Shop Became a Refuge for Queer People

The storefront of Drop Me A Line in Portland, Maine in 1990. By Roger Mayo.

Young gay couple Roger Mayo and Jim Neal opened Drop Me A Line, a tiny gift shop in Portland, Maine, in 1990. Although Portland in those days could be unfriendly for queer people, they chose to carry greeting cards and books that catered to LGBTQ customers. At StoryCorps, the former romantic partners reflected on how the store became so much more.

Bottom Photo: Jim Neal with transgender actress Lady Chablis at a book signing at Drop Me A Line in 1997.

Originally aired March 8, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Remembering Rafael Cancel Miranda: “A True Puerto Rican, From Head To Toe”

On March 1st, 1954, Rafael Cancel Miranda, alongside three other Puerto Rican Nationalists, opened fire in the U.S. House of Representatives, calling for the island’s independence, and injuring five congressmen before being arrested.

Puerto Rican Nationalists moments after opening fire in the House of Representatives on March 1, 1954. From left to right: Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda and Andrés Figueroa Cordero. Photo courtesy of the Cancel Vázquez family.

The other three Nationalists were Lolita Lebrón, Irvin Flores Rodríguez and Andrés Figueroa Cordero. They stormed the Capitol in the hopes of bringing attention to Puerto Rico’s political status, which they believed was tantamount to an occupied colony.

Puerto Rican Nationalists (seated) with their attorneys (standing). From left to right: Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, Lolita Lebrón, and Andrés Figueroa Cordero, soon after the March 1, 1954 attack. Photo courtesy of the Cancel Vázquez family.

No one was killed, but the three men were sentenced to more than 75 years each, while Lebrón was sentenced to 50 years. Each served 25 years before President Jimmy Carter, alleging “humane considerations” commuted their sentences in 1979.

Rafael Cancel Miranda died in 2020, and was the last surviving member of the group.

At StoryCorps, Cancel Miranda’s wife, María de los Ángeles Vázquez and their son, Rafael Cancel Vázquez reflected on his legacy.

Rafael Cancel Miranda on a 7-hour furlough from prison to attend his father’s funeral in Puerto Rico, in August 1977. Photo courtesy of the Cancel Vázquez family.

 

Top Photo: María de los Ángeles Vázquez and Rafael Cancel Vázquez at their StoryCorps interview in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 3, 2024. By Von Diaz for StoryCorps.

 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired March 1, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Father and Doctor Reflect on a Life Cut Short by Cancer

Robert Robinson and Dr. John Fortunato met under incredibly difficult circumstances.

When Robert’s daughter, Angel, started rapidly losing weight, doctors incorrectly believed an eating disorder was to blame.

But on one visit to the hospital, Dr. Fortunato discovered a rare stomach tumor.

Angel, Robert and Serenity Robinson in Hawaii on January 22, 2023. Courtesy of Robert Robinson. 

Despite multiple rounds of treatment, Angel died at the age of 15 in August, 2023. One of their final wishes was that their story serve to help other patients be heard when seeking treatment. 

Serenity, Robert and Angel Robinson in Chicago, Illinois in September 2019. By Kylie Kreations, courtesy of Robert Robinson.

Robert and Dr. Fortunato have forged a lasting bond and continue to support each other in their efforts to honor Angel’s legacy.

They came to StoryCorps to reflect on the impact the experience had on both of them. 

Top Photo: Robert Robinson and Dr. John Fortunato at their StoryCorps interview in Chicago, Illinois on October 30, 2023. By Jeb Backe for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired February 2, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“He Inherited The Very Same Name”: Remembering Joseph Kahahawai

In 1931, five young Hawaiian men were wrongfully charged of raping the white wife of a U.S. Navy officer stationed at Pearl Harbor. Her name was Thalia Massie, and she alleged it happened around midnight when she decided to go for a walk and get some air. The case was declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and the men were released.

In what became known as the Massie trials, the family of the accuser—including her mother and husband—then kidnapped and killed one of the five accused men in January of 1932. He was a Native Hawaiian boxer named Joseph Kahahawai.

Portraits of Joseph “Joe” Kahahawai circa 1931 (left) and his brother, Joseph Kahahawai circa 1954. Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress and the Kahahawai family.

The Massie’s were tried and sentenced to ten years in prison for manslaughter… But under threats of Martial Law from Congress, they were pardoned by the territorial governor of Hawaii, who commuted their sentence to one hour in his office. The Massie family fled to the mainland, and never returned.

After decades of silence, the Kahahawai family has started speaking publicly about the case, and the impact “Joe” Kahahawai’s murder had on their family and the broader Hawaiian community.

At StoryCorps, his nieces, Kim Farrant and Joy Kahahawai-Welch, remember their uncle, and how the family has kept his name and legacy alive.

Joseph Kahahawai’s gravesite, at the Puea Cemetery in Kalihi, Honolulu, HI, on January 8, 2022 (the anniversary of his murder). Courtesy of the Kahahawai family.
Top Photo: Kim Farrant and Joy Kahahawai-Welch at their StoryCorps interview in Honolulu on June 17, 2022. By Ben DeHaven for StoryCorps.  

 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired Jan. 5, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Nearing The End Of Her Life, They Sat Down For One Last StoryCorps Conversation

In the early 1970s Jackie Miller and her husband adopted their son, Scott.

Thirty-seven years later — in 2008 — Scott came to StoryCorps with Jackie to talk about their relationship and to find out more about the history behind his adoption. 

Scott Miller with his parents, Jackie and Percy Miller, in Barbados, in the mid 1970s. Photo courtesy of Scott Miller.

 

A cut of that recording aired June 11, 2010, on NPR’s Morning Edition. You can listen to it here.

Fifteen years after that initial conversation, Jackie’s health started to decline. Realizing his mom was nearing the end of life, Scott wanted to do one more interview, and share an update on their relationship.

Scott Miller and Jackie Miller at their StoryCorps interview in New York City, NY, on May 30, 2008. By Mike Rauch for StoryCorps.

Click here to watch “Me & You,” an animation of Scott and Jackie’s first story.

 

Top Photo: Jackie Miller and Scott Miller at their StoryCorps interview in Tarrytown, NY, on October 27, 2023. By Julia Kirschenbaum for StoryCorps.

 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired Nov. 17, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

As Her Memory Dims, One Remarkable Mother Remains A “Beacon of Light”

To mark StoryCorps’ 20th Anniversary we are revisiting classic conversations from the past two decades with updates from the participants.

We end this special series by catching up with one remarkable mother in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mary Johnson-Roy and her son, Laramiun Byrd. Courtesy of Mary Johnson-Roy.

Mary Johnson-Roy lost her only child, Laramiun Byrd, to gun violence in 1993.

One night while at a party, Laramiun got into a fight with another teenager named Oshea Israel. The fight ended when Oshea shot and killed Laramiun.

A dozen years later, Mary went to the penitentiary to visit the man who murdered her son.

Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson-Roy in 2011 and in 2023. By Gaspar Caro and Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

Soon after Oshea finished serving a prison sentence for murder, Mary brought him to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship. We’ll also hear from them 12 years later.

Mary founded From Death to Life, an organization to help families who have lost children to gun violence, and has spent decades running support groups. But she’s had to step back a bit from her life’s work, after being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Mary Johnson-Roy and her husband, Ed Roy, in Minneapolis, Minnesota  in 2023. By Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

Since her diagnosis in 2021, Mary’s husband, Ed Roy, has been her main caretaker. Ed also had a son who was murdered, in fact that’s how he and Mary met. Here, they share more about Mary’s illness.

Mary’s community is rallying to help cover her medical expenses through a GoFundMe, which can be found here.

Top Photo: Oshea Israel, Mary Johnson-Roy and Ed Roy in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2023. By Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired September 29, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

First story aired on May 20, 2011 on NPR’s Morning Edition.